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Friday, 24 June 2011

Telecommunications in Australia

Early

A memorial at Narrandera, New South Wales to the "J" trunk route linking the Australian cities and towns on the east coast
Following federation, the colonial networks (staff, switches, wires, handsets, buildings etc.) were transferred to the Commonwealth and became the responsibility of the first Postmaster-General (PMG), a federal Minister overseeing the Postmaster-General's Department that managed all domestic telephone, telegraph and postal services. With 16,000 staff (and assets of over £6 million) it accounted for 90% of the new federal bureaucracy. That figure climbed to over 120,000 staff (around 50% of the federal bureaucracy) by the late sixties.
Public phones were available in a handful of post offices and otherwise restricted to major businesses, government agencies, institutions and wealthier residences. Eight million telegrams were sent that year over 43,000 miles of line.
There were around 33,000 phones across Australia, with 7,502 telephone subscribers in inner Sydney and 4,800 in the Melbourne central business district. A trunk line between Melbourne (headquarters of the PMG Department) and Sydney was established in 1907, with extension to Adelaide in 1914, Brisbane in 1923, Perth in 1930 and Hobart in 1935.
An old bakelite ash tray showing an example of a single digit phone number used in the early days of telecommunication.
Overseas cable links to Australia remained in private hands, reflecting the realities of imperial politics, demands on the new government's resources, and perceptions of its responsibilities. The PMG department became responsible for some international shortwave services - particularly from the 1920s - and for a new Coastal Radio Service in 1911, with the first of a network of stations operational in February 1912. Australia and New Zealand had ratified the 1906 Berlin Radio-telegraph Convention in 1907.
During the 1930s the PMG became responsible for the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC).

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